Tag Archives: Rocky Fernandez

May 11-16 Oakland Political & Community Events

11 May

There is a LOT going on this week, particularly on Thursday, when there will be events throughout the morning, day, and night. I hope to see you at some of these events.

Monday, May 11th – Get Out the Vote with the East Bay Young Dems

EBYD is teaming up with Oakland Rising, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Just Cause, Urban Habitat, and EBASE to defeat Props 1D and 1E.  Come phonebank with us on Monday, May 11 at the Ella Baker Center (344 40th Street, Oakland).  Training at 5:30pm, phoning for justice from 6:00pm to 9:00pm and cocktails to follow at Marc 49 in Temescal.

Wednesday, May 13th – Special City Council Meeting to Discuss Dellums’ Budget Proposal

Last week, Dellums unveiled his budget proposal, and this week we’ll get to find out what the City Council thinks about it. For background, I highly recommend checking out V Smoothe’s coverage of the budget, which is really the only in depth budget coverage you’ll find anywhere. The meeting will be held from 4-7pm at the Council Chambers in City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Thursday, May 14th – Bike to Work Day

Though I don’t bike in Oakland, and Bike to Work Day makes me feel lame, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t celebrate. There is a ton going on. Via the City of Oakland:

All eight Oakland City Council members are scheduled to bike downtown for Oakland’s 16th Bike to Work Day celebration at City Hall, Thursday, May 14, 2009. They will be joined by Nate Miley, Vice-President of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Over five hundred bicycle commuters are expected to ride in for the annual affair, which features an assortment of enticements for those participating, including:

  • Pancake breakfast (7-9am), courtesy Palapas Taco Bar, Tully’s Coffee and Whole Foods Market
  • Club One Day Pass for showers
  • All-day valet bike parking, courtesy of East Bay Bicycle Coalition (7am-6pm)
  • Bike mini-tune-ups, courtesy of Bay Area Bikes and Wheels of Justice Cyclery
  • Canvas bag with goodies and bicycling/transit info
  • Raffle with 18 great prizes including round-trip tickets for two to Santa Barbara on Amtrak
  • Displays on low-impact commuting, bicycle-friendly projects and programs, and sustainable transportation and land use, including AC Transit bus-bike rack demonstrations
  • Press conference (8:30am) with remarks by Council Members and Supervisor Miley
Find out more at Oakland’s Bike to Work Day site.

Thursday, May 14th – BART Board Meeting on the Oakland Airport Connector

After you grab a pancake breakfast in front of City Hall, head Uptown to to the BART Board meeting to speak out against the wasteful rail Oakland Airport Connector and in favor of a rapid bus solution.

Please join us at the BART Board meeting to reclaim transit funding for BART, AC Transit, and other Bay Area transit agencies and to secure a project that make sense for the region:

What: BART Board Meeting on the Oakland Airport Connector

When: Thursday, May 14th @ 9am (TransForm recommends showing up by 8:30 if you’d like to get a seat in the Board room; if not, there is an overflow room.)

Where: Kaiser Center – Third Floor, 344 20th Street in Oakland

If you cannot make it to the meeting, but want to tell the BART directors how you feel, please send an email via TransForm’s action page. You can find a pre-written message there, but I encourage you to take the time to personalize the email, as non-form letters are always more effective.

For more information, check out my post about the meeting and TransForm’s RapidBART proposal.

Thursday, May 14th – Mix It Up East Bay
Join us for a monthly happy hour bringing together young activists, organizers and leaders in the East Bay. In honor of Bike to Work Day, this month’s event will focus on alternative means of transportation. Speakers include:

  • Rocky Fernandez, President, AC Transit Board of Directors
  • Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS)
  • Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO)

Please note the new location for 2009.Mix It Up East Bay is held every 2nd Thursday of the month from 6-9pm at Shashamane at 2507 Broadway. It’s accessible by 19th Street BART station or by AC Transit lines 1/1R, 51, 59.

Thursday, May 14th – The Oakland Builders Alliance Presents at Night at the Fox with Don Perata

The Oakland Builders Alliance presents “An Eye on the Oakland Mayor’s Race” with former Senator Pro Tem and Mayoral Candidate Don Perata at the historic Fox Theater.  This event is sponsored by OBA members PG&E and Architectural Dimensions. The event will be held from 5:30-8:30pm at the Historic Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Avenue. RSVP via Facebook.

Friday, May 15th – 3rd Annual Oakland Indie Awards

The Oakland Indie Awards are hotter than ever this year!  Join us at The Crucible on Friday, May 15th as we celebrate Oakland’s innovative, socially- and environmentally-responsible businesses and artists. Winners will be announced at the event—come help us celebrate! You’ll get to taste Oakland wine, beer, chocolates, teas, baked goods, dips, sauces, tapas and so much more! Talk to hundreds of other Oakland lovers, and chill to Oakland tunes. The event will be held from 5:30-8:30 pm at the Crucible, 1260 7th Street, Oakland, 1260 7th Street. Tickets are $20 and you can find out more at the Indies website.

Saturday, May 16th – TransForm’s 12th Annual Summit
WINDFALL FOR ALL: Saving Our Economy, Pocketbooks, and Planet with World-Class Public Transportation and Walkable Communities

This year, the Summit will focus on the critical role of transportation and land use in the health of our economy, pocketbooks, and planet – and highlight solutions that can help on all three fronts. Between the devastated stock market, unemployment rates, and impending climate doom, it’s a wonder any of us get out of bed in the morning. But we do – and it’s because we sense that all three of these challenges can be addressed by the very things we’re working for: world-class public transportation and walkable communities in the Bay Area and beyond. The summit will be held from 8:30am-4:00 pm at Laney College 900 Fallon Street. Registration is $25 and more info can be found on TransForm’s website. This event is accessible by Lake Merritt BART station or by AC Transit lines 11, 13, 14, 15, 35x, 36x, 40, 59, 62, 82.

Happy Inauguration Day!

20 Jan

I don’t have much more to say as I sit here waiting for Obama and Biden to be sworn in. Instead, I’ll share the message I received this morning from Rocky Fernandez, President of the California Young Democrats and AC Transit Director:

With America watching today, I hope that President Obama’s first words to our nation will be ones of hope and a call to action and service.  One of my greatest fears is that all of us who worked hard on the campaign will be content with having JUST elected a president.  In reality, we need to work even harder, and make “Yes We Can” something we apply to our work each and every day.

We need to fix our economy; fund schools and expand higher education opportunities; bring forth the clean energy economy; and make sure our generation’s quality of life is better than what our outgoing President has handed to us.  When we’ve done that, we can finally proclaim, “Yes We Did.”

I hope all of you celebrate this amazing day in our nation’s history.  Enjoy the fruits of our hard work–our nation, and our generation, have earned it.  But tomorrow we get to the real struggles in people’s lives.  And like never before, we’ll have to work to change the status quo and shape the nation we want. Fortunately, our generation is up to the challenge, and will rise to meet it, like previous generations have throughout the history of our nation.

Today is certainly a day to celebrate so don’t forget to head to Z Bar tonight for the Barack n Roll Inauguration Party. See you there!

Community Speaks Out Against AC Transit Fare Increases

26 May

On Wednesday, I attended AC Transit’s public hearing on the fee increase proposals. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was pretty amazed at how many people showed up (every seat in the council chambers was filled and more than 50 people spoke.)

To start things off, the President of the Board, Chris Peeples, turned the floor over to Nancy Nadel, who had helped the Board reserve the council chambers. Nadel referred to comments she had sent in writing to the Board about fare increases and voiced her concern over the proposed increased fees for passes, especially for youth. She also mentioned that the Oakland’s oil task force is aiming for the city to cut usage of oil by 3% every year and increased usage of public transit is key to that goal. To Nadel’s credit, she was the only elected official or candidate for elected office (besides the Board members) that sat through the entire meeting, and she seemed engaged, jotting down notes throughout the hearing.

President Peeples spoke next, starting off sounding fairly defensive. He reminded the crowd that unlike on the boards of most transit agencies, three out of the seven AC Transit board members are transit dependent and all seven of them use AC Transit regularly. He explained that the Board is holding this meeting because they do listen to public comments, and the fare increases are not a done deal. He also said that all of the written comments submitted had been transcribed and that all of the comments would be summarized. He also reminded us that no decision would be made that day – a decision will be made at the regular Board of Directors meeting on June 11th or June 25th.

AC Transit CFO Deborah McClain spoke next. She said that AC Transit is audited periodically by the FTA, MTC and an external auditor and always did well in these audits. However, since 2005 (the last fare increase), AC Transit revenue has increased 3.5%, while expenses increased 14%. She attributed this huge expense increase mostly to increases in medical costs, pensions, and, of course, rising gas prices. (Every $.10 increase per gallon increase adds $650,000 annually to AC Transit’s costs!) She went on to explain that Governor Schwarzenegger has recommended cutting significant funding to transit. If his proposal is passed in its current form, AC Transit stands to lose $19 million from the state next year. She closed by reminding us that AC Transit has typically instituted fare increases every three years and that fare increases are a key part of the operating budget.

Dan Leland, AC’s Treasury Manager, followed McClain, starting off by saying that he was sure all of them (the Board and AC staff) would rather be anywhere else, discussing any other topic. However, without the fare increases, AC would be forced to institute service cuts. He then delved into the four proposals recommended by staff. His comments about the proposals were incredibly confusing so I was glad I had looked at them the night before.

All four proposals would institute a base fare increase of $0.25 to $2.00 per ride. The proposals differ in their increases of student and senior passes. Proposals three and four also over discounts for transfers. I think the easiest way to see the differences between the proposals is to look at the table (which I copied from AC Transit’s site) – I’ve marked the significant differences in red. It really would have made sense for Leland to put this table on a screen, but at least everyone in the crowd had copies of the proposal.

AC Transit & Dumbarton Express Fare Change Proposals

Proposal

Proposal

Proposal

Proposal

Current

1

2

3

4

Cash

Local Adult

$1.75

$2.00

Same as Proposal 1

Local Youth

$0.85

$1.00

Local Senior/Disabled

$0.85

$1.00

Transbay Adult

$3.50

$4.00

Transbay Youth

$1.70

$2.00

Transbay     Senior/Disabled

$1.70

$2.00

31-Day Ticket/ Monthly Pass

Local Adult

$70.00

$80.00

Same as Proposal 1

Local Youth

$15.00

$28.00

$17.00

$15.00

$15.00

Local Senior/ Disabled

$20.00

$28.00

$23.00

$20.00

$20.00

Transbay Adult

$116.00

$132.50

Same as Proposal 1

10-Ride Ticket

Local Adult

$17.50

$20.00

Same as Proposal 1

Local Youth/  Senior/Disabled

$8.50

$10.00

Transbay Adult

$35.00

$40.00

Local Transfer

With cash or 10-ride tickets

$0.25
1.5 hrs
1 use

$0.25
1.5 hrs
1 use

$0.25
1.5 hrs
1 use

Free
1.5 hrs
1 use

$0.25
1.5 hrs
1 use

With TransLink

Same as above

Same as above

Same as above

Same as above

Free
2 hrs
unlimited use

Transbay Transfer

With cash or  10-ride tickets

Free
w/transbay fare
1.5 hrs
1 use

Free w/transbay fare
1.5 hrs
1 use

Free
w/transbay fare
1.5 hrs
1 use

Free w/transbay fare
1.5 hrs
1 use

Free
w/transbay fare
1.5 hrs
1 use

With TransLink

Same as above

Same as above

Same as above

Same as above

Free w/transbay fare
2 hrs
unlimited use

Potential additional revenue*

$0

$9,299,449

$6,515,830

$4,510,438

$3,910,438

*assumes no change in ridership

Back to Leland – he echoed McClain and reminded us that the state is embroiled in a budget crisis. AC is making efforts to get a fair share of funding from the state, but counting on this funding is unrealistic. Also, while AC is focusing on increasing ridership, the increased ridership needed to close the budget gap is unrealistic to achieve in such a short time frame. He ended by recommending that Proposal 1 be approved and that it be implemented on September 3.

Over the next several hours, dozens of community members spoke. The vast majority of speakers focused on the proposed increases for youth and senior passes. I was impressed at how many students spoke (about a dozen), and many of them had touching stories to share. They spoke about how their families were already struggling, especially with increased food costs, and they were worried that they could not afford the increased fares. A single mom spoke and explained that fare increases would force her to choose between the cost of lunch and the cost of bus fare for her children. Several youth advocates echoed these concerns, explaining that increased transit costs create barriers to access to food, jobs, and school. One youth advocate explained that she works with youth groups, and towards the end of the month, many young people miss the meetings because they have no money for bus fare.

More than a dozen seniors spoke as well. Some said that if it wasn’t for the bus, they would never leave their homes and if fares increased, they’d leave much less frequently. Others said that even with current bus fares, they sometimes walk, which is increasingly difficult for some seniors with health problems. A senior advocate broke down some very real choices, saying that a $3 increase in monthly fares would mean one less meal for a senior, and a $8 increase would mean three fewer meals per month.

A bit surprisingly to me, almost no one protested the adult monthly pass increase. When I spoke, I focused on this (since the senior and youth issue had already been covered by pretty much everyone else). I explained that while I understand the need for fare increases, AC Transit has historically not treated regular riders much better than casual riders. The adults who have monthly fare passes depend on AC, and we should be prioritizing these riders. I also said it was unwise to make revenue projections based on the assumption that ridership will not change, since we had just heard from dozens of people who said their ridership would decrease.

Another speaker made a poignant argument for not increasing fares. He lives in West Oakland, where there are no grocery stores. He currently takes the bus to Pac n Save in Emeryville. He doesn’t think he could afford the fare increase, and he couldn’t walk to the grocery store because it would take two hours. If fares increased, he would be forced to shop at corner stores in West Oakland, which are more expensive and do not have a good selection of healthy food.

Most of the speakers throughout the afternoon were respectful and many said they understood that the Board was in a difficult situation. Some even told sweet stories about bus divers waiting for them and about how much they loved riding the bus. However, there were a few speakers that really railed on the Board. They claimed that AC had mismanaged money and that’s why they are now considering fare hikes. Most of these people focused on the purchases of Van Hool buses and said AC needs to stop buying those and find cheaper, safer buses – one speaker even held up the East Bay Express articles and waved them around. Others accused the directors of getting rich off of poor people, which amused me a bit since the directors do not get paid. Still others brought up the trips that directors and staff took to Belgium and France to look at buses.

After the public spoke, the directors responded. Joe Wallace spoke first, explaining that the directors are struggling too – he’s transit dependent. He also said that it was hard listening to people telling them that they’re mismanaging money, and that it made him feel bad that his constituents think that.

Rebecca Kaplan followed, saying that AC is committed to maintaining affordability for underserved communities. But AC Transit doesn’t control the tax system and spending, and transit funding is being slashed by the state and federal government. She called on all of us to call the Governor to tell him not to cut transit funding. She said AC plans to continue to work for more regional funding (MTC). They are also working to get more bulk passes out there – currently UC Berkeley has a deal with AC whereby all students pay a yearly fee and get free bus passes – they are currently working with Peralta, and the Cities of Berkeley and Alameda. She ended by again pointing the finger at Schwarzenegger – one of the first things he did as governor was to cut the Vehicle License Fee (which costs the state $6 billion annually), and this funding cut has been passed onto local agencies, like AC Transit.

Rocky Fernandez echoed Kaplan’s focus on the state, but urged the public to not just focus on the Governor but also on regional legislators. He said that legislators hear from constituents about other issues (like housing and crime) a lot, and they assume that transit is not important to their constituents because they don’t hear about it as often. He implored us to speak to candidates about transit and to make the transit lobby as important as the other state lobbies.

Greg Harper told staff that he wanted a report differentiating demographics on local and transbay ridership because he believes the demographics are different and that could effect the fee increase decision. He agreed with arguments about fare passes, saying that those with passes are transit reliant and the board should be loathe to raise their fares. He did think $2 made sense for one ride fares. He also pointed out that many youth pay cash and don’t use the monthly passes and also talked about the possibility of lowering youth fares during the mornings and afternoons (school time) and raising fares for all-time passes.

Chris Peeples ended the meeting. He thanked TALC and other organizations that go to Sacramento and to local legislators to speak about transit issues. He then proposed that gas should be taxed more heavily – at $4 per gallon – since the true cost per gallon is $7. He ended by saying that AC maybe hasn’t done the best job explaining their choices to the press (I’m guessing he was referring to the East Bay Express articles).

I have to say, I actually felt good leaving the hearing. I was impressed at how many community members spoke up (some telling me that it was their first time doing any public speaking), and I felt like the directors did listen. I’m sure there will be some kind of fare increase, but I’m hopeful that increases won’t be as large for seniors and youth. I also feel really good about the directors we have running AC. Though they only spoke for a bit, they all had a great grasp on the larger political issues and the needs of their constituents. The sad truth is, as many speakers and directors said, they’re stuck in a very difficult bind. The state is slashing transportation funding and their only short term choices are to raise fares or cut service. I have a bunch more I want to say about how the state’s actions are effecting AC Transit, but, I think there’s enough here to mull over here so I’ll get to that in a later post. If you want to read more about this issue, I recommend checking out Robert in Monterey’s analysis at Calitics of Arnold’s attempt to kill public transit.

That’s about it. If you’ve made it this far and still want to learn more, I highly recommend reading the staff memo on this issue.